F1 – Leclerc stays on top in final practice for Monaco Grand Prix

F1 – Leclerc stays on top in final practice for Monaco Grand Prix
F1 – Leclerc stays on top in final practice for Monaco Grand Prix

Charles Leclerc continued to set the pace in the build-up to the Monaco Grand Prix with the Ferrari driver beating championship leader Max Verstappen by almost two tenths of a second in final practice, with Lewis Hamilton in third.

Ferrari driver Leclerc ended Friday’s running at the top of the timesheets and in the final hour of practice he was again quickly in the mix, though he would have to wait for a while to top the timesheet. Ten minutes into the session, Kick Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas clipped the wall on exit at the Swimming Pool exit wall. The impact broke the front-right suspension of his car and the Finn was forced to stop at Rascasse.

Unable to get back to the pit lane, his car had to be recovered and the session was red-flagged. When running resumed there was a rush to get back out on track and the bulk of the field filed out of the pit lane to gather final data.

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri took over at the top with a lap of 1:12.684 but then Leclerc found more time and he claimed P1 a tenth of a second clear of the Australian. Local hero Leclerc then set about lowering that benchmark over subsequent laps, eventually working his way down to a time of 1:11.977.

After shedding his opening set of Soft tires for another set of the C5 Pirelli tires the Monegasque driver went even faster, stopping the clock at 1:11.369 to sit six tenths of a second clear of Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz.

Behind the imperious Leclerc, others were struggling to get dialed into the circuit’s requirements. Verstappen once again seemed unhappy with his car, telling his race engineer that he couldn’t extract any more pace from the package. He proved himself wrong, however, and as he chipped away at finding performance he eventually got down to a time of 1:11.566s, just 0.197s off Leclerc.

Hamilton, too, was less than comfortable in his Mercedes and the seven-time champion was lucky to get away with flat-spotted tires after a heavy lock-up into Sainte Devote that sent him barreling up the escape road in a haze of smoke.

After leading early on, Piastri was left with fourth place at the end of the session, while Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez put in a solid late lap of 1:11.923 to take fifth. Like team-mate Verstappen, Pérez wasn’t happy with his car, however, telling his race engineer that it was “nowhere”.

George Russell in the second Mercedes and Sainz claimed the sixth and seventh places respectively, while Lando Norris was eighth in the other McLaren. RB’s Yuki Tsunoda impressed with P9 and Fernando Alonso rounded out the top 10.

2024 FIA Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1’11.369 26 168.325
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda RBPT 1’11.566 0.197 27 167.861
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’11.710 0.341 25 167.524
4 Oscar Piastri McLaren/Mercedes 1’11.901 0.532 25 167.079
5 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda RBPT 1’11.923 0.554 24 167.028
6 George Russell Mercedes 1’11.968 0.599 33 166.924
7 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1’11.979 0.610 26 166.898
8 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1’11.988 0.619 24 166.877
9 Yuki Tsunoda RB/Honda RBPT 1’11.991 0.622 27 166.870
10 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin/Mercedes 1’12.087 0.718 25 166.648
11 Pierre Gasly Alpine/Renault 1’12.144 0.775 26 166.516
12 Alexander Albon Williams/Mercedes 1’12.180 0.811 24 166.433
13 Nico Hülkenberg Haas/Ferrari 1’12.192 0.823 24 166.406
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1’12.216 0.847 31 166.350
15 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1’12.331 0.962 25 166.086
16 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1’12.472 1.103 25 165.763
17 Logan Sargeant Williams/Mercedes 1’12.703 1.334 21 165.236
18 Daniel Ricciardo RB/Honda RBPT 1’12.829 1.460 28 164.950
19 Zhou Guanyu Sauber/Ferrari 1’13.830 2.461 28 162.714
20 Valtteri Bottas Sauber/Ferrari – 2

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